The good Old Days?
Working behind a bar gives you an entirely different perspective on life in general, that goes without saying, but the last few years has seen the view change beyond all recognition. Pulling pints and listening to the same old conversations can give you lots of time to contemplate the passing social trends and fashions. Pubs and bars tend to be the arena that new ways of thinking and acting can best be observed, amongst the trendy of the day.
For a snap shot of British social history during any era then the study of the Pub should be high on the list of reference sources. Look at any old TV soap and the bar or pub that is depicted at the time. From the Likely Lads, supping their Newcastle Brown Ales, and sprinkling salt from a little blue wrapper on to their crisps, to Annie Walker in Coronation Street, pulling pints of half and half, for a young Ken Barlow, the pub seems to speak for the times.
Years ago back in the Fifties when men were men, and we had never had it so good, according to Harold Macmillan, the choice of beer in a pub was often only mild or bitter, and the public bar was strictly men only. The lounge or snug was for nice ladies, who drank port and lemon and who never went to the pub unless escorted by a gentleman. Limited opening times ruthlessly observed by the landlord and implemented by patrolling police, who would enter a pub at any time strolling around, showing their authority and looking for any licence infringements, meant that most drinkers where safe home tucked up in bed by 11 o’clock.
“Time gentle men please,”meant just that. No stay behinds then or late bars.
The one constant that can be observed over the years is the defined roles of males and females within the pub. Women would never dream of going to the bar to get served, it was a social gaff .No ,if a woman wanted a Babycham or CherryB then the male would have to perform his role as hunter gatherer and do the honours, or at the very least press the little button that used to summon the waitress, yes waitress, for the order.
Dress code was strictly observed in yesterdays pub. The bar was the realm of the working man and as such you could get away with anything. Boiler suits,overalls whatever you had on. The lounge,snug or parlour was “best cloths”only. Men wore smart suits, sports coats, always collar and tie. Women dressed quite formally, dresses, high heels, long coats and quite often hats as well. No swearing was the order of the day except in the public bar, and then it was censored by the landlord.
All in all, a very different world.
The modern twenty first century pub has come a long way,some would say not for the better. For a start the age of the local brewery owned local has all but gone. Any idea of sampling the delights of pubs from other regions, is a waste of time. Go into any bar in the UK and you will see the same selection of branded beer, that you can see anywhere else. Other than the odd local micro brewery real ale hand pull, sitting forlornly on the counter surrounded by extra cold this and that, that is it for “local flavour .”Certainly the range of beers , noticeably lagers is truly staggering. It is hard to imagine what Albert Tatlock, from Coronation Street, would make of it all.
In other ways too, our locals have changed. The public bar has in most cases disappeared in favour of single price, “spaces”.Carpets have replaced linoleum, fruit machines, juke boxes and cash machines have replaced more traditional facilities and lets not forget the smoking ban. The best lounge is now a sports bar or restaurant .Longer opening hours and a child friendly pub culture, ensure the whole family can enjoy the pub scene. Women are just as likely to frequent a bar as men. Liberated and enjoying a life free of any social stigma attached to drinking whatever and whenever they want, women are now targeted by all the key players in the drinks industry .
The landlords role has changed immensely they are now an entertainments manager and marketing director as well. The landlord can no longer sit back and wait for business to walk through the door, he has to generate it. Pub quizes, Sky TV, promotions and food, are just some of the tools at their disposal. Pubs are not so much local as global these days.
Soaps, such as East Enders and Coronation Street still depict pubs as hubs of the local community. Is that still the case ? The Vic and The Rovers Return are characterised in a rather old fashioned quaint stereotypical way, a bit like the way we choose to remember our old friends or past happy times. Is this a true reflection of the modern pub? The fact is that pubs are like ourselves, forever adapting and coming to terms with a changing world.
Somehow I think that pubs will be around for a long time yet to come, but in the famous words of Bones from Star Trek, “They are pubs Jim, but not as we know them .”